During her extraordinary performing career, Michele Lee has starred in Broadway musicals, feature films, television movies and specials, recorded hit records and starred in a prime-time series that ran for fourteen seasons. She has produced films for television and has directed hours of quality prime-time programming. Outside of her prolific life in entertainment, she has centered herself in a close-knit family, while developing time and immeasurable energy to causes close to her heart. And, though it all, she has managed a sense of humor.
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COLOR ME PERFECT
In 1996, Michele became the first woman to produce, write direct and star in an original motion picture for television. "Color Me Perfect" is the story of a free-spirited, childlike woman with limited intelligence who is chosen for a groundbreaking genetic experiment to improve her mental capacity.
Amidst controversy, the woman becomes a genius and her life is changed forever. The film made its debut as an "event presentation" on Lifetime Television November 5, 1996.
As Karen MacKenzie is CBS' international hit, "Knots Landing," Michele appeared in all 344 episodes during the series' historic run, setting the American television record for the greatest number of consecutive appearances by a leading actress in an hour-long prime-time dramatic series.
(At 14 years, "Knots Landing" is the second longest-running dramatic series behind "Gunsmoke's" 20 years.) She was nominated for an Emmy as Best Actress (Lead Role in a Drama Series), named Actress of the Year by Gannett Newspapers and has won numerous magazine awards for Best Actress in a Prime-Time series. In 1997, the long-anticipated reunion mini-series of "Knots Landing" aired on CBS.
BIG DREAMS, BROKEN HEARTS: THE DOTTIE WEST STORY
One of the many highlights of her illustrious career was Michele's starring role in 1995's Emmy-nominated CBS Sunday Night Movie "Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story." The immensely entertaining dramatic saga spanned 40 years and inventively tells of the colorful, ill-fated Grammy-winning performer who influenced generations of country music artists. Dottie brought glamour and sizzle to country music and challenged the traditions and presentational concepts of the cultural art form. The movie received rave reviews from the national media, from country music industries, from fans around the world and is considered to be a classic of its kind. It swept the night outright, becoming one of CBS' highest rated movies during the past few years
MICHELE LEE PRODUCTIONS
A respected and popular artist, Michele Lee is continuing her long-term productive association with CBS through her company, Michele Lee Productions. She has a commitment to star in and produce a new comedic or dramatic television series, as well as multiple commitments to produce and star in original movies and mini-series for the Network. She is currently developing a film about the complex life of popular author and television personality, Jacqueline Susann.
Her television movie career is noted with high quality, commercially successful efforts. She starred with Anthony Hopkins and Elizabeth Montgomery in the acclaimed three-hour NBC presentation of "Dark Victory" and followed that with "Bud and Lou," starring Buddy Hackett and Harvey Korman, in which she played Anne Costello, the wife of tragic comedian Lou Costello.
"A Letter to Three Wives," the highly praised and highly rated NBC modernization of the Joseph L. Mankiewicz classic starred Ms. Lee along with Loni Anderson, Stephanie Zimbalist and Ben Gazzara. "Neil Simon's Broadway Bound," an ABC Television Theatre presentation reunited Ms. Lee with friend "Doc" Simon, as she starred with Hume Cronyn and Anne Bancroft in the film of the Tony Award-winning play.
1989 marked Ms. Lee's first producing efforts for CBS with "Single Women, Married Men," a true story about the work and life of therapist Joanne Bitner. It starred Ms. Lee, Lee Horsley and Julie Harris. "The Fatal Image" starred Michele Lee and Justine Bateman in a suspenseful thriller about kidnapping and murder set against the color and romance of a summer's vacation in Paris.
"My Son Johnny," a highly-charged true story about sibling rivalry and its consequences starred Ms. Lee, longtime friend Rick Schroeder, Corin Nemic and Rip Torn. In 1992, she developed, produced and starred in "When No One Would Listen," another critically-acclaimed and experimentally creative television drama, based upon an actual case about domestic violence, which led to changes in operation of the legal system. Ms. Lee's former husband, actor James Farentino also starred.
Michele recognized and cultivated her flair for directing in the Theatre. She later applied those skills behind the camera. Outstanding episodes of "Knots Landing" and a special Thanksgiving episode of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" have earned Ms. Lee respect from her peers for her creative approach to the process.
Michele was born in Los Angeles on June 24, the first of two children born to Sylvia and Jack Dusick, both deceased. Her dad was a well-known make-up artist for such stars as Clint Eastwood, Richard Chamberlain and Efram Zimbalist, Jr. Her brother, Kenneth B. Dusick, is an attorney.
Michele was a performer from the start. At age three, she was singing for the family. She sang at school assemblies while attending Louis Pasteur Junior High and Hamilton High and, by age 16, she was a semi-professional band singer.
A few days after graduation, she auditioned for a spot in a local musical revue called "Vintage '60." Legendary Broadway producer David Merrick was taken by the show and Michele's show-stopping number and moved the show to New York. The show's run was short-lived, but Michele had made it to Broadway with her first audition.
She was appearing in the L.A. production of Jerry Herman's "Parade" when word came from New York that an "Italian-American type" ingenue was being sought for "Bravo Giovanni," a new Broadway musical to star Metropolitan Opera star Cesare Siepe. The vivacious 18 year-old bought a plane ticket, flew to New York, auditioned for and landed the role.
"Bravo Giovanni" led to the prestigious Pulitzer Prize-winning smash hit musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," in which Michele starred as the female lead, Rosemary opposite Robert Morse. She played the full two-year run and went on to re-create her role in the popular 1967 United Artists movie version. Ms. Lee was named a NATO Star of Tomorrow by the National Association of Theatre Owners for her feature film debut.
As television variety specials became more and more popular, Michele was in great demand, working with such legends as Fred Astaire, Bette Davis, Perry Como, Bob Hope, Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis, Ed Sullivan, Danny Kaye and Carol Burnett.
As a recording artist under contract to Columbia Records, Michele recorded numerous albums including "A Taste of the Fantastic," which became a hit, as did her single, "L. David Sloane." Between movie and television appearances, she mounted a night club act, performing at the famed Persian Room in New York and The Sands Hotel (at the height of its popularity) in Las Vegas.
"THE LOVE BUG STAR" BECOMES A MOTHER
In 1969, Michele starred in Disney's "The Love Bug" opposite Dean Jones and gave a stellar performance in Carl Reiner's cult classic film "The Comic," starring with Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney. It was also the year Michele and James Farentino -- married in 1966 -- became parents of David Farentino. (Michele and Jim were divorced in 1981.)
Michele returned to Broadway in 1973 as the star of Michael Bennett's hit musical "Seesaw," based on William Gibson's play "Two for the Seesaw." Ken Howard and Tommy Tune also starred. Clive Barnes wrote in the N.Y. Times: "Miss Lee proved a delicious mixture of tough and vulnerable, with a show-biz passion that was absolutely exultant." New York Magazine's John Simon said: "She sings, moves, acts, and radiates like a true pentathlon champion, deserving five-fold accolades."
TIME's T.E. Kalem reported: "Apart from her notable acting strength, the sheer likability of Michele Lee is infectious." Mort Young of Hearst Newspapers wrote: "After the opening performance, someone should have pinned a silver star on Michele Lee's dressing room door, planted a kiss on her cheek and handed her the keys to the city." Her performance in "Seesaw" earned her the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Circle Critics Award and a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.
Michele is a boundlessly enthusiastic person who can always find the lighter side of most situations. She has lived in the same house for over 25 years. Much of her time and talent are devoted to community endeavors. Michele co-founded The Entertainment Industries Council in the early '80's to help deglamorize and dehumorize the deception of alcohol and drug use in the movies and television. She is also a member of the Artists Committee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Michele cherishes her career, but family comes first and her friendships run deep and are lasting. Her best friend in high school is her closest friend today. A photography buff, she has collected albums of her own work, reflecting the growth and change of generations of family and friends. Her home is always the setting for gatherings and holiday celebrations. Michele says that "relationships change, but rarely end." In fact, she and Jim Farentino have remained good friends. Their collaboration in "When No One Would Listen" was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "arguably the best performances of their careers in one of the year's strongest TV Movies."
On September 27, 1987, Michele married television producer Fred Rappoport. The couple met in New York when Fred filled in for an ailing friend who had a theatre date with Michele. They're been together ever since.
In 2000 Lee returned to Broadway, where she earned rave reviews and a Tony nomination for her role as Lee Green in Charles Busch's The Allergist's Wife. Lee was recently presented a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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